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Gay People Are Living There

Resource type: Case Study

The Atlantic Philanthropies |

Gay and lesbian film festivals can be an effective means to reach out and organise gays and lesbians living in isolated communities, according to this evaluation of the Out in Africa festival in South Africa commissioned by The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Written by Marian Nell & Janet Shapiro for The Atlantic Philanthropies

In Summary

Out In Africa (OIA), a grantee of The Atlantic Philanthropies (AP) and a partner in its gay and lesbian programme, has organised an Annual Gay and Lesbian Festival in various South African cities since 1990. Since 2004, OIA has taken a selection of queer films to 18 small towns in rural South Africa.

These “satellite festivals” not only provide education and entertainment to isolated gay and lesbian (largely black and poor) communities in the country’s hinterland – often for the first time – they also serve a political purpose. They bring gays and lesbians together in solidarity and help to strengthen embryonic organisations. They also provide platforms for gay visibility in often hostile environments.

This publication tells the story of one of such festival – Mafikeng in March 2008.

In the battle against homophobia in South Africa some of the ugliest moments of the war are likely to be reflected in violence and hate crimes against gay people in the townships of the major cities. But it is in the small towns outside the urban centres that the battle for equality will be won or lost. It is in these towns that tolerance and acceptance of the diversity which is at the core of the Equality Clause in the Bill of Rights will be tested.

It is easy to forget about such places. They are difficult to get to and gay and lesbian people living there are isolated and cut off from others. Visibility brings the danger of abuse or attack. There is safety in the numbers of the critical mass in cities. In the smaller and far-flung towns that dot the South African landscape, gays and lesbians have, until now, had little opportunity to explore their own lives as part of the spectrum of the country’s diversity. Things, it seems, however, are changing.

This publication was made possible by the wholehearted co-operation of Out In Africa (OIA) and Gay Umbrella, as well as by the openness of all those involved in the Mafikeng satellite gay and lesbian film festival. Most of all, it was made possible by the event itself which brought together the exuberance of the Mafikeng gay and lesbian community and the seriousness of purpose that underpins the work of OIA and its partners, including The Atlantic Philanthropies. The event was a celebration of South Africa’s diversity.

Related Resources


Human Rights & Reconciliation, LGBT

Global Impact:

South Africa


diversity, equality, OIA, Out in Africa